2020 Community Activism Feature Local government

How we recover from COVID19 starts now

The theme music from the movie Rocky plays over the public address system at NY Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital every time someone is discharged after beating COVID 19. Staff members stop and pause while listening to the opening bars of “Gonna Fly Now.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioE_O7Lm0I4#action=share

That is one heartfelt way of acknowledging those who have beaten the virus.  In New York City, residents come to their windows and doors at 7 o’clock every night and bang pots and pans, scream, sing or make noise as a tribute to those who are putting their lives at risk to care for those who are sick.

For as many ways our lives have been interrupted by the invisible germ wreaking havoc on society, there are expressions of support and compassion showing us that we will come through this period of pandemic better people.

That is the desire expressed by Peekskill Mayor Andre Rainey in letters he wrote last week to about a dozen of Peekskill’s civic groups including the Rotary, NAACP, Peekskill Area Pastor’s Association, Peekskill Business Improvement District and Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce. Rainey said he noticed over the course of last year’s election campaign a fair amount of political and racial division in the community and “it hurt my heart to witness. I believe now is the time for us to unify to get through this, for the sake of our community.”

Post letter

“We need to get over our differences and find respectful ways to express our differences and opinions. We need to find better ways to communicate with one another when we believe something is wrong or should be addressed.”

He continued that “we need to start rebuilding our city now” and said that if the first step was to apologize, then he was starting, saying he apologized for any ways he may have hurt people in the organizations he was writing to.

“Once this pandemic is over, the amount of stress people have built inside is going to be on levels unheard of, I imagine. I want us to be there for one another, communicate and work as a team to provide services and support for one another so our city, our schools, our businesses, our people can continue thriving and growing into one of the greatest cities on earth.”

Rainey is correct in his assumption that how we act now and with whom and for whom, will shape and possibly determine who we will be when this current health crisis starts to pass. The seeds have already been planted. When streets are empty, and people stay inside they are demonstrating an act of love on behalf of fellow citizens. Instead of looking at the quiet as an eerie example of how a virus can shut down a society, it can be looked upon as a way of practicing solidarity with neighbors through physically keeping distant.

New expressions of attending to basic human needs are created; from Facebook Live streaming at funeral homes where families and friends can mourn together, virtually, the loss of a life to Zoom calls where milestones like birthdays and bridal showers are celebrated.  These ‘work arounds’ include vocalists singing in unison with one another miles apart to create uplifting testaments of the human spirit.

Even producers of a Saturday night television show figured out how to broadcast live, piecing together skits from actor’s homes.

Rainey’s letters began by thanking the individual organization for all they were doing to help the city and its residents. He ended by asking for help to move forward once the health crisis passes. He asked the receiptants to contact him and the city manager’s office to share any initiatives that could assist residents. The city has compiled a comprehensive list of resources during this time. It can be accessed at http://www.cityofpeekskill.com under the COVID 19 tab. Post city website

Residents who are hungry and need food can access the city’s website to learn about locations in town where they can get free groceries, from the Peekskill Rotary Club’s Pop-Up Food Distribution giveaway every Tuesday at the Field Library Plaza at 11 am, to Wednesday’s Salvation Army Food Distribution and CHHOP’s Fred Pantry food giveaway on Wednesday and Saturdays.

During a conversation on Wednesday, Rainey and City Manager Andy Stewart outlined ways the city is responding to the COVID 19 crisis. It can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVedTLXurMo

Rainey and County Executive George Latimer will be speaking on the city’s response to COVID 19 today at 11 a.m. on Facebook Live.  It can be accessed here: : https://www.facebook.com/westchestergov/

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